Recently, I took an interest in children’s education. It started when I guided my nephews and nieces in their schoolwork and realised I may be able to help more people in my spare time. I started a Facebook page with a friend to provide education tips and wrote on KiasuParents to share what I know.
Perhaps it’s with the benefit of work and life experience, I was able to see the importance of primary school education and the bigger picture beyond the fact that good PSLE grades could help a child get to a good secondary school. I saw the merits of the school syllabus and what was asked of the children.
This week is very crucial to many 12 year-old children— it’s their oral examinations and the start to the PSLE. I did research on the latest syllabus, talked to current teachers and attempted to dish out tips I deemed important.
I was excited. After all, this is one of my fortes.
I was a part-time radio DJ for five years. I moved on to be a financial journalist after I graduated from school. In the past ten years, I had interviewed politicians and ministers from different parts of the world and broke news because I spoke to the chief executives of the biggest companies in the world. I was good at oral examination in my school days and oral speaking is basically my livelihood.
On the eve of the oral examinations, I wrote on the Facebook page.
“Relax and enjoy yourself when you are with the examiner. Chat with him/her candidly and the teacher will feel positive about you too. […] , delight the examiners, be confident.”
A reader commented on the tip. “Chat with examiner candidly? Dun bxllsxxt.” He added that I shouldn’t “用取巧的方法去考试” (A rough translation: not to resort to tricks or the easy steps for an examination.) He removed his comments later.
I begged to differ. The reader felt it was absurd for one to speak candidly to an examiner and thinks this is a trick to acing the exams that shouldn’t be condoned.
In the near term, the oral examination appears to be the means to an end. You get a good score and you do well for PSLE. But have you wondered why this component was in the examinations?
The Ministry of Education wants to train our children to be able to speak up, speak well and be eloquent. Unfortunately, speaking up is one of the biggest flaws of Singaporeans. Have you caught any local television shows that attempt to interview Singaporeans on the street? The ones interviewed are usually at loss for words or just stammering. In contrast, when I was staying in Taipei, I was always amazed at how they are able to express themselves fluently. This is a life skill one should have.
If I weren’t all relaxed and candid with my interviewees, the CEOs would never have spilled the beans on their companies and I won’t have my scoops. Similarly, if you were a teacher, would you be more impressed by a nervous, uptight student who just did the bare minimum to read a passage and describe a picture or would you be more awed by one who chats with you confidently?
This is definitely not 取巧. This is part of the art of being a good speaker- to connect and win over your audience.
The unfortunate part of our system is we depend too much on rote learning. We often forget the real purpose of attending school and taking examinations is to be educated. Besides aiming to get 100 marks, we are also learning how to communicate well, in the long term, as a life skill. This aspect is often overlooked.